Britain’s Brutalist Playgrounds

Made in collaboration with Assemble, the exhibition at the RIBA was an immersive installation of post-war playground structures recreated in foam, accompanied by a film of archival images from the RIBA’s archive. Brutalism evoked a new ethics in architecture, attempting to question the pre war Modern Movement while establishing a renewed socialist agenda. Today these structures are remembered largely for their failure, characterised by the image of rough concrete and implementation of style over effective architectural change. The focus of this work is on the playgrounds found at the feet of these structures. Brutalist structures were defined as much by what surrounded them, the open spaces, walkways, ramps, service areas and playgrounds, as the structures themselves. The ability to free up surrounding space for play and leisure was a central justification for their existence.

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Park Hill estate, Sheffield, 1963 | Arch Press Archive/RIBA
Park Hill estate, Sheffield, 1962 | Arch Press Archive/RIBA
Park Hill estate, Sheffield, 1962 | Arch Press Archive/RIBA
Churchill Gardens estate playground, Pimlico, 1963 | John Maltby/RIBA
Churchill Gardens estate playground, Pimlico, 1963 | John Maltby/RIBA
Churchill Gardens estate in Pimlico, London, 1978 | John Maltby/RIBA
Churchill Gardens estate in Pimlico, London, 1978 | John Maltby/RIBA
Balfron Tower playground, Poplar, London, 2015 | Simon Terrill/Assemble
Balfron Tower playground, Poplar, London, 2015 | Simon Terrill/Assemble